Dream builders

Supporters, dignitaries break ground on Civic Arts Center

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When Vandy Kemp left Maryville College in 1999 to work at Heritage High School, college officials were just beginning to discuss building a Civic Arts Center.

On June 21, Kemp watched as volunteers, officials and city leaders stood shoulder-to- shoulder to break ground on the $47 million facility.

"It’s awesome now to see it happen. This is going to improve the quality of life for students and the community," said the vice president of student affairs. "It’s a thing whose time has come."

About 100 people turned out to see seven individuals ceremoniously break ground on the facility.

Mark Cate, Maryville College vice president of advancement and finance, said the two buildings will be on 8.2 acres with a combined space of 135,000 square feet. There will be a 14,000 square foot arts plaza. Cate said Maryville pledged $9.4 million, Alcoa pledged $3.8 million, federal officials pledged $7 million, the state pledged $2 million and $25 million is being given by the college and from individuals in the community. Cate said. "I believe we’ll look back and realize what a transformational day this was for our community and region."

Maryville Mayor Joe Swann said that early on Maryville realized this was a project that would benefit residents. "We really believe in this project, and we look forward to two years from now when we’ll be back for opening night," he said
Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said it took all of about five minutes for Alcoa city government to see the benefits of the center. "It’s going to be a facilitator of economic development and something that’s needed," he said.

Kevin Clayton said the facility will help attract higher paying jobs and thus keep property taxes lower. Clayton, CEO of Clayton Homes, is leading the private fundraising efforts for the center. Of the $47 million that is needed, he is leading the effort to raise $25 million. "I’m pleased," he said of the progress. "We’re just over half of that."

Dr. Gerald Gibson, Maryville College president, said he often talks about wanting Maryville College to be a community
asset. "I think this project is one of the great manifestations of that desire."

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